Superfoods for super health
Before you go spending your money on armfuls of the latest supplements, check out this list of superfoods, which will help to keep both you and your bank balance in good health.
Apples – Different varieties of apples have different phytonutrients, but they all have tonnes of antioxidants, including flavonoids and other polyphenols, and fibre.
Beans – Some beans have even more healthpromoting antioxidants than blueberries. They also have as much cholesterol-lowering fibre as oats, and lots of lean protein. They also are rich in B vitamins, magnesium potassium, iron and folate. Both dried and fresh beans are excellent, but beware of sugar and other nasties in those tins of baked beans.
Berries – All berries are good for you, but blueberries are the kings when it comes to health and the frozen varieties are just as good as the fresh ones. For such tiny fruits, blueberries deliver a huge wallop of antioxidants of many kinds, including anthocyanins and other polyphenols, and carotenoids. They have fibre, potassium, folic acid and vitamins C, and also help lower inflammation, a precursor for many chronic diseases; and they have very few calories (while also tasting delicious).
Dark chocolate – The magic word here is ‘flavonoids’, the same antioxidants that make tea so potent a health brew. Flavonoids help lower blood pressure and keep your arteries from clogging – but only dark chocolate does the trick, not milk or white. Choose those with a high cocoa percentage on the label.
Avocados – Packed with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (which help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels), avocados are high in fibre, potassium, magnesium, folate and antioxidants. They can also help absorb more nutrients from other foods – the tomato in the same salad, for instance.
Fatty Fish – We’re talking Salmon, trout, tuna, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardine here – basically any cold-water fish. The omega-3 fats are what make this type of fish outrageously good for your health. Fatty fish are easily the most abundant and usable form of omega-3 fats on the planet. It can help to lower cholesterol, treat arthritis, cancer and heart disease, lower inflammation, and may help in memory loss and even Alzheimer’s disease. They are also a good source of protein and heart-protecting monosaturated fats.
Kiwis – Vitamin C, vitamin C and more vitamin C – kiwi fruit are loaded in this antioxidant, which also makes oranges a superfood. Kiwis rival bananas in potassium, kilogram for kilogram and they also have the benefit of flavonoid antioxidants abound in the skin, which is completely edible.
Oats – The kings of fibre, oats also deliver protein, potassium, magnesium and other minerals, as well as phytonutrients, including antioxidants. Their cholesterol-lowering powers are well known, and all that fibre is also believed to help stabilise blood sugar. Oats’ combination of nutrients appears to have more healthy effects than if each nutrient were consumed separately – which seems to be true of all whole grains. They’re also extremely cheap.
Soy – Tempeh, tofu, soy milk and other soy-based foods contain plenty of phytoestrogens, which can help reduce breast cancer risk and ease menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes.
Tomatoes – Tomatoes and tomato-based products are the key to preventing prostate cancer in men. Also, the red pigment (lycopene) is a very powerful antioxidant. Recent studies showed that tomatoes contain coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, both of which protectors against lung disease. Interestingly, tomatoes are one of the few foods that are better for you cooked than raw (it enhances the effects of lycopene).
Spinach – It’s loaded with lutein (great for eyes) and many other carotenoids, and lots of other healthful antioxidants like coenzyme Q. It also has several B vitamins as well as vitamins C and E, iron and other minerals including betaine, a vitamin-like nutrient research suggests is good for your heart. And with almost no calories, you can eat as much as you want. Also good for similar reasons: kale, chard and other dark leafy greens.
Walnuts – All nuts have been reborn as good-for-you foods, for their healthy fats and micronutrients. A few go a long way, though, as they are pretty calorie-dense. Walnuts’ main claim to stardom is their omega-3 fatty acids, which fight heart disease. Other goodies include plant sterols, which lower cholesterol, and lots of antioxidants.
Yoghurt – Its main claim to fame (other than as a good source of calcium and protein) is its live cultures, also called probiotics or beneficial bacteria. Live cultures are what turns milk into yoghurt (but some commercial yoghurts are heated to kill the cultures after they do their work, so be sure to read the label). In your gut, they fight bad bacteria, aid digestion, help metabolise food and generally tune up your system.